In battle of top teams, Cats slice past Pats

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Members of the Jasper boys soccer team celebrate Jacob Mehringer scoring the Wildcats' first goal in the second half of Jasper's game against Heritage Hills Monday evening in Lincoln City. Mehringer's goal got the Cats rolling as Jasper defeated Heritage Hills 4-0 for their 11th victory in a row.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

LINCOLN CITY — What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? It’s a question that’s been told and pondered for as long as there has been competition between people, and last night soccer fans from Dubois and Spencer County were able to see that scenario play out at Heritage Hills High School.

In a rescheduling of a previously cancelled game, the Jasper Wildcats came into Monday night’s contest riding high on a wave of ten consecutive victories. Their only blemish came early in the season in their first game against Evansville Memorial, a 2-0 affair.

But on the other side of the match-up card were the Heritage Hills Patriots. Big Blue boasted their own four-game win streak heading into the game against Jasper, and themselves had only tasted defeat once in their narrow 2-1 loss against Gibson Southern on Aug. 28.

Heritage Hills' Gannon Staggs and Jasper's Grant Sanders and Dillon Sternberg head the ball in the first half of Monday evening in Lincoln City.

So the table was set for a clash of grass titans which would determine cross-county supremacy, and after a pitched game that saw its share of ups, downs, and near-misses it was the Jasper Wildcats that emerged victorious and extended their winning streak to 11 in a row after a 4-0 win against the Patriots.

Jasper coach Kyle Kendall told his boys in the post game huddle that every win is important, but some are sweeter than others. He loved how his players didn’t fold under the pressure of Heritage Hill’s first half offense and were able to pick it up in the second half and respond in such definitive fashion.

“Those kids came out hard in the first half, and we haven’t had to play at that speed in two weeks,” said Kendall. “We talked about how we were going to have to adjust to their speed at halftime. The speed we played with the last 40 minutes is the fastest we’ve played all year. We went at them hard and put balls away when we had the chance.”

The two halves of the game were black-and-white for both teams. The Patriots (9-2) tried to use their edge in speed and athleticism to overwhelm the Wildcats  (11-1) from the opening whistle. They maintained possession of the ball and dominated the field of play for most of the opening 40 minutes. But Jasper was able to stand firm and hang in on the defensive end to keep the Pats from creating and exploiting scoring opportunities.

There were a couple of close calls. Heritage Hills was able to get in close early and put three shots on junior goalie Quentin Harmon in the first six minutes of the game. But Harmon stood tall in the net and blocked all the shot attempts through the traffic.

But the Wildcats hardly left their side of the field in the first half, as every time Jasper tried to mount some form of offense the Patriots were right there to cut off passing lanes and kill attempts to get the ball across midfield. And the shots from Heritage Hills kept right on flying.

Jasper's Brian Elizarraras kicks the ball down the field in the second half of Jasper's game against Heritage Hills on Monday evening in Lincoln City.

However, the Wildcat defenders were a tenacious bunch. They challenged every pass and dribble for Heritage Hills, cut off lanes of attack, and if the Pats were able to breakthrough the lines of defense, they could never overcome the Harmon backstop covering the net. The two juggernauts went back and forth, but eventually the first half ended with zero goals for either team.

When the teams broke for halftime Kendall made a few adjustments in the lineup that he felt would be better for the pacing of the game, but the central message to the team was to play faster.

“(We) talked about playing harder, and going at them, and knowing that we could play at that speed all night,” he said. “Once we cranked up the speed, we were able to get behind them.”

In the second half the roles were suddenly flipped, as it was Jasper that was more on the offensive and pushing the pace against Heritage Hills. They had their fair share of shots on the Patriots’ net, but it wasn’t until the 27:06 mark that the team was able to breakthrough on the scoreboard, courtesy of a fleet-footed Jacob Mehringer.

“I just saw the ball bouncing and saw the goal,” said the senior after he emerged from a scrum of players fighting for the ball in front of the Patriots’ goal after a corner kick. “I just hit it, that’s all I could do.”

Once Mehringer started the scoring the rest of the team followed. Senior Tyler Hunt was able to pound the next just a few minutes after Mehringer, and juniors Kahle Burger and Jackson Kabrick came up with scores in the final seven minutes to put the game away for good.

Heritage Hills' Carson Leibering rests during halftime of the Patriots Monday evening home game against Jasper. The loss was just the second of the season for Heritage Hills.

Pats coach Joe Asbury didn’t enjoy seeing his team’s win streak come to a close, but he didn’t hold any ill will towards Jasper. They were simply the better team Monday night.

“We came out and were aggressive, physical in the first half,” said Asbury. “The second half was a different game. Jasper came out and dominated the first five minutes.”

While Kendall wanted his team to enjoy the win, he reminded them that their mission for the week was to go 3-0, and they will get chance to make good on that goal Thursday against Washington. He hopes the team can use this game as a lesson in the importance of coming out fast and keeping their edge on the defensive side of the ball.

“Washington isn’t going to give us 20 minutes to wake up,” he said. “Our defense did a nice job tonight of holding them out while they had the pressure. Washington won’t do that, so we’ve got to be ready at the opening whistle, that’s the biggest thing right now.”




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